A Day in the Life of Madison

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Dreaded Day We Celebrate

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
~James 1:2-3

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory of which shall be revealed in us."
~Romans 8:18

Madison's one year anniversary of she being in Heaven is quickly approaching.  October 22.  It is a day that I have dreaded since the day she passed away.  I truly believed that Jesus would have already come back by now or that he would have called me home, and that I would be with Madison again.  The reality of her not being here with us is hitting me hard this week.  It has almost been 365 days since I held her in my arms, kissed her good morning, heard her sweet voice, warmed up her bottle, rocked her to sleep, worshipped with her, washed and folded her clothes, gave her a bath, fixed her hair, changed her diaper, told her I love her, prayed with her, fed her, took a nap with her, buckled her into her car seat, cleaned her bottles, picked up her toys, heard the sound of her walker going through the house, tucked her into bed, snuggled with her, held her hand.  I could go on and on.  I feel like the heartache that I am feeling now is so much worse than it was the day she went to Heaven. 

Why am I dreading this day so much?  Madison surely isn't dreading this day and she surely isn't sad about being in Heaven.  I know that if she had a choice to come back to us on Earth she would not want to.  I would not want to either.  She is free from the bondage and the limitations of I-Cell disease. 

Looking back on this year, it feels like it has dragged on.  Before, time was flying by.  Every day we got to spend with Madison we cherished.  We lived every day do the fullest because we knew our time was going to be limited.  I have finally learned to stay off social media sites for holidays:   Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, even the first day of school.  It feels like your heart is being ripped out to see families celebrating with their children, knowing that we will never get to take another picture of Madison.  I took a ton of pictures while she was here and still feel like I do not have enough.

There has been so much change in our life over the past year and it has been change that we didn't ask for.  There is an emptiness in our hearts and in our home.  It is with us every where we go.  Yeah, we still smile and have a good time but that ache and longing is still there and always will be.  Shane and I continue to trust God through this heartache and he has showered us with so much grace and mercy.  He has given us so much peace. 

I have not gotten to the point yet where I don't relive our final days and hours with her.  There are some that have haunted me and some that give me tremendous peace. 

I don't think a Sunday morning has passed that at 7:30 I don't think about Madison. I remember so clearly the sound of her pulse ox machine going off and watching the numbers quickly drop...90, 85, 80, 70, 60, 50. I remember the look in her eyes when she couldn't breathe and me scrambling to get her breathing again. And when she finally did, I remember sitting on the floor with her in my arms, hugging each other, and crying together. I remember Terry and Ta running in and I handing her to Terry while I had the biggest meltdown I had ever had. I started pacing the floors, crying, not knowing what to do. I vividly remember the look on her face. She just stayed in Terry's arms and let me have my moment and she looked at me like, "What are we going to do next, Abel?"

As we rode in the ambulance to Birmingham, Madison slept on my chest most of the way.  I never thought that would be the last time she slept in my arms.  I also have not been able to get the image out of my head of them having to bag her when she couldn't breathe. The look in her eyes as I laid beside her telling her it was going to be okay.  I felt completely helpless. I think a part of me knew that there wasn't much more we could do, but I did not want to believe it. A mother is supposed to be able to fix everything and this, I could not.

When these images come into my head, I quickly have to turn my thoughts to her final moments.   
I will sometimes just start singing one of Madison's favorite songs, Victory is Mine.  "I told Satan.  Get thee behind because VICTORY TODAY IS MINE!"  Satan wants us to be sad and hopeless.  How can we be sad knowing that Madison is ALIVE and rejoicing in Heaven?  It brings tears to my eyes and I have no words to even try to describe the moments when she told us "I see Jesus."  Then for her to tell Shane and I that she would see us later.  She was not afraid and she definitely wasn't sad to be leaving us.  She knew that this was not goodbye.  She even I said, "I'll see you later!" 

Allie just told me recently that after Madison said she saw Jesus the second time, she took her shoes off because she knew she was standing on holy ground.

Two weeks after Madison arrived home, I felt like I needed to clean out her closet and put all her toys away. Every person grieves differently and for me, this is what I needed to do, and something I wanted to do by myself. I took all her little dresses off the hanger and neatly folded them and put them into a big storage container. As I was was folding them, I was flooded with memories of the day she wore each dress. Her other clothes did not get folded as neatly. I couldn't handle the idea of it being the last time I would be folding and putting away her clothes for good. I just took the drawers and dumped them in to the containers. When I got to her toys, for every stuffed animal I put up, Bo pulled out two. I did let him keep one of her stuffed animals.

Allie came over when I finished and we moved all the boxes to the storage room. They still sit there. About 4 months ago I was having a pretty rough day, just missing Madison so much. I went to the storage room, opened up the box that had her clothes in it and grabbed a shirt just so I could smell her again but the smell was gone. I can't fully describe the feeling, but it wasn't good. It just made me realize that time is moving on. I have all this stuff to remind me of her, but none of that can take the place of the memories that I will hold forever.

I often think about Madison's life and the legacy that she has left behind. I love getting stopped by people asking me if I am Madison's mom. I can't even tell you how much my heart swells when I answer yes. I love hearing stories of how she has touched so many people. People I don't even know.

With life going on, it has become a huge fear of mine that people will forget Madison. People are sometimes afraid to bring her name up because they never know how we will take it. Truth be known, I never know how we will take it. Sometimes we will laugh, and other times we may cry. We never know how each story will affect us, but we still love to hear them.

It feels like it has been another lifetime ago that I was a mom. My worries and anxieties that I have are now completely different.  Even though I know there is no cold or virus that can harm her anymore, I still hear every cough and sneeze. I run away from a runny nose, and sanitize the house after company leaves and I still use hand sanitizer and Lysol spray ALL THE TIME! 

It was put on our hearts a few months ago to start teaching Sunday School. I mentioned it to Ta for her to see what was available. Selfishly, I prayed for anything but first grade. We didn't want first grade because this is the class Madison would have been in. These were the group of kids that Madison should grow up with, go on youth trips with, graduate with, etc. Well, God has great sense of humor and we got first grade.

I can't tell you the joy that this Sunday School class has been to me and Shane in just the few short weeks we have taught it.  Some of Madison's favorites, Reed and Mason are in this class.  We love to hear them talk about and remember Madison.  It is our prayer that as these children continue to grow up, that they will look at her entire life and see God's faithfulness and love that He has given us.  I pray that they see that Shane and I are grieving Madison, but that we are grieving her with hope.  That they see and understand the peace that we have been given.  Peace that truly does surpass all understanding.  That they will come to understand that when you are a believer in Jesus Christ, any fear of death that you may have is gone. 

I have not been to her grave yet and don't know when I will.  I drive by there almost every day.  I don't have the desire to go by there. She is not there. It is just her shell. Shane and I have not even ordered her headstone.  We are not ready to yet but we will know when we are.   The grave is not the end.  This life that we are living is not where God intends for us to be.  I can promise you, Madison is more alive and well today, than any day she was here on Earth.

Sometimes I feel that people may think I am crazy or even suicidal with how much I long to be in Heaven.  I'm not either of those things, but I can't wait to go. I know that one day I will be reunited with my Savior and with Madison and I can't wait to have her in my arms again.  And until He returns or calls me Home, I'll proclaim His goodness, love, and faithfulness and praise Him in both joy and suffering.

I am not going to be sad on October 22.  I am going to celebrate this day because this is the day that we had prayed for. For so long, we have prayed for Madison's complete healing and our prayer was  answered! We are going to celebrate this day just like we do her birthday. November 16th is the day God entrusted us with her and October 22 is the day we had to give her back.

I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am to have been her "Abel" for almost six years. There is no greater role that I have enjoyed the most than this. It has been a journey that didn't go quite as I planned but one that I am so thankful I got to do and continue to do. I pray for strength to share her story at every opportunity that I get.

I can't help but think of that day when the glory of Heaven is in my view. I picture her turning around saying. "Hey, Abel!" As if I have never left her side. To see that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before, welcoming me home. Where none of this sadness and heartache that we have right now will matter any more. What a glorious day that will be!

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
~Isaiah 55:8

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."
~Romans 8:25

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
~John 16:33

Friday, June 13, 2014

Not My Picture Perfect Life

After we received Madison's diagnosis in 2009, I started looking at life completely different.  I learned very quickly what really mattered in life.  Things that didn't bother me before, and things I never would have thought twice about after hearing, were now driving me crazy. 

For example, seeing new born baby pictures on Facebook with the caption "Blessed to have a healthy baby!"  Am I not blessed because my daughter wasn't healthy?  Or hearing, "My child has been sick for two weeks, I am SO tired and ready for this cold to go away."  Really?  Try dealing with a disease that you see every day of your child's life knowing that one day, this disease is going to take her life.  And, "Our kids drive us crazy.  We just need to get away.  We need a break from our kids."  I would give anything to spend one more minute with my child and you want to complain and get away from yours?

Then you see the picture perfect families on FaceBook, which I truly believe some are photo shopped.  I'll run in to people who I usually only see on Facebook and they look nothing like the pictures they post!  Sad.  I just want to grab these people and tell them, it's okay to not look perfect all the time.  Anyways, back on track .  I see people who want to give the impression that they have exactly what they always dreamed of.

We always dreamed of having two or three kids, they would be "x" amount of years apart, we would have a dog, our weekends would be spent watching our kids at sporting events, going to birthday parties, etc. It was my picture perfect dream. 

Why couldn't Shane and I have what we always dreamed and planned of having?  Why are we not able to see our Madison celebrating more birthdays, graduating kindergarten, playing sports, getting her driver's license, graduating high school, getting married, having children, etc. 

When I think I about what we are missing out on, I quickly think about what all we have gained.  This is not a tragedy that our Madison left this life early and that our life is not going the way we had planned.  I feel like if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, tragedy shouldn't even be in your vocabulary.  We REJOICE in knowing that Madison is in Heaven, made whole, and healed from the disease that she was born with.  Knowing that our child is going to spend ETERNITY in Heaven worshipping her Savior....THAT is what my dream is. 

God had other plans for us and thank goodness he did.  I have never learned to trust in Jesus more than I do now.  Now, my picture perfect dream is to live a God honoring life, trying to further his kingdom to the best of my ability.  I truly live every day for eternity.  This life seems so short when you think about where you will be for eternity.  These petty things that bother me now, won't matter in Heaven. 

I want to close this ranting post with a challenge for you.  We knew from an early age that our time with Madison was limited, so we had the opportunity that not every one gets.   We knew that every day we had with her, was going to be lived to the fullest.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  What if you lost a child suddenly?  Would you have regrets?  But most importantly, would you have the promise of spending eternity with them? 

Our life may not be going the way that I planned, but thank goodness I have the promise of knowing that our family will be together for eternity and that should be every person's desire and dream. My prayer is that every parent will raise their child to know Jesus so they too can have this promise. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday's A-Coming!

Shortly after Madison passed away, I was asked by my good friend, Tammy Kirkland, if I would be interested in co-facilitiating a Women's bible study with her on Sunday nights. When she told me the name of the bible study, Stronger by Angela Thomas, I immediately knew this was something I needed to do.

Little did I know, how much I truly needed this bible study. Every night I would read my study and call my sister, Amy, and good friend, Allison MacLean and tell them with such excitement what all I had just read. I pretty much read them the study every night too. I felt like this study was written just for me and at the same time that I could have co written it.  God knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, and he will ALWAYS provide it.  I needed this bible study more than I realized.  Even though the study ended a couple of weeks ago, I still find myself going back and rereading it. 

Ever since my Dad passed away in 2011, Easter has become my favorite holiday to celebrate.  Now that Madison has joined him, I literally can not wait until Easter this year.  This is the holiday that we celebrate every thing we believe in and have put our faith in to.  That the grave in not the end.  That Madison and Dad have been healed, have a new body, a new home, that I have been redeemed, and that one day, hopefully soon, I will be joining them in the magnificent place called Heaven.  They are not dead, but alive!  Oh hallelujah!  I just want to shout it from the roof tops!  THEY ARE ALIVE!

The last chapter of this study is titled My Easter Sunday God.  There is a quote in this chapter that really got me excited.  Here it is:

It's Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday's coming.
It's Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter's denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday's coming.
It's Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday's coming.
It's Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday's coming...
And on that horrible day 2,000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory...but that was Friday.

It's Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin, and the grave. It's Sunday. And now everything has changed. It's the age of grace, God's grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary, was buried, and rose again. All because it's Sunday.
~E.V. Hill

I don't know about you but I get overwhelmed with emotion when I read these two passages. That Jesus loves me SO much that he died this horrible death for me. That I am forgiven of all my sins. And best of all, he rose from that grave and defeated death. That death will be no more! That I will live for eternity in the presence of my Savior forever with Madison and Dad. I am so unworthy of this love that is given to me.

I truly can't wait to celebrate Easter but more importantly, I look forward to the day that I am called home or that Jesus returns.  Whichever happens first.  I can't wait until Shane and I are in Heaven and everything I love the most are together again.  I can't wait to see my sweet Savior's face and be with Madison and Dad, and all the loved ones who have gone before, again, for eternity. 

Sunday's a-coming!!!!



Friday, March 21, 2014

Living for Eternity

Since Madison arrived to her eternal home, I have had several instances where people just couldn't believe how well Shane and I are doing. I try to take this opportunity to share the word of Jesus with them and tell them the story of that day when Madison passed away, and how merciful Jesus was to us. Sometimes people are completely unphased by it and I just want to shake them and tell them, "Did you hear what I said?! She said she saw Jesus!... four times!" Then I walk away wondering how someone could hear Madison's story and not become a believer.
Today is the 21st, five months since Madison arrived. Even though her death certificate says the 22nd, I will always say the 21st is when she met Jesus.
When Madison was given the Ativan to help make her comfortable, the doctors explained to us that she would go into this deep sleep. Shortly after she had told us that she sees Jesus, and told Shane and I that she would see us later, she fell into this deep sleep. She was hooked up to a pulse ox monitor that was telling us what her oxygen level and heart rate were at.
The doctors turned off the machine in the room before hand, so that we could focus on Madison, knowing that the end was drawing near, and not her numbers.
The doctors however, could see the numbers at the nurse's station in the hallway. We were all gathered around Madison and one of her doctors came and asked us if we would like him to lead us in a word of prayer. I knew then that her numbers were low and that we were close.
This was at about 11:45 on Monday night.
Shane and I asked our dear friend, Terry Kirkland, AKA Terwy by Madison, to lead us in word of prayer. We, along with all of Madison's doctors and nurses, laid hands on Madison as Terry prayed. As soon as Terry finished praying, and said Amen, we all truly believe Madison left and was in the arms of Jesus even though her heart was still beating. The warmth of her skin was now cool and her color immediately changed. Her hands, that had always been so contracted and curled up, I could now fully hold and straightened out, without any signs of pain or discomfort. We knew then she was gone.
Her heart didn't stop beating until 30 minutes later but we knew she was already in Heaven.
Shane and I get asked quite frequently how we are doing and I feel like both of us always respond with how much peace we have. How can we NOT have peace? We were standing on holy ground that night in Children's Hospital, knowing we were in the presence of Lord, as we helped usher Madison home. We have no doubt that Madison arrived to Heaven and was instantly healed. We can confidently say that the grave is not the final destination and that death does not have the final say.
I have contemplated on sharing this picture but feel like I should. It reflects how much peace we truly have.
This picture is the last picture that I had taken with Madison. It was taken about a hour after she passed away. I had just finished bathing her, and Shane and I were about to carry her body downstairs to the morgue. I remember not wanting to let go of her. Her airways had gotten so restricted over the last year, that she was no longer able to lay her head on my shoulder, as she couldn't breath when she tilted her head. It had been 8 months since I was able to hold her like this. It felt so normal. I remember my friend Allie taking this picture but when I saw this picture for the first time, I couldn't believe I had a smile.
When I look at this picture I see a very tired Able, who is physically and emotionally drained, but spiritually, she is the strongest she has ever been.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ."
~Philippians 4:7

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come."
~Proverbs 31:25

"Death is swallowed up in victory, O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:54-57

"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
~John 11:25-26

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
~Revelation 21:4

Even though we have an overwhelming peace, we still miss Madison like crazy. I rejoice in knowing that Madison is no longer suffering. I long for the day when we are all reunited for eternity!
Oh, Jesus! Come quickly!

Monday, January 20, 2014

90 Days Closer to Heaven

Today marks 90 days that Madison has been in her eternal home.  Right now it feels like 90 years instead of days. 
I can't believe how much our lives have changed.  I think the hardest part has been adjusting to this new "normal".  My days with Madison were so structured.  She would wake up at around 8:30, drink a bottle, we would play until around 11:00, get our showers and get dressed, eat lunch, take a nap, drink another bottle, play some more, eat dinner, drink another bottle, and go to bed.  Everyday.  That was our routine. 
Missing our structure is just a small part.  I miss hearing her call for "Dane" aka Daddy.  I miss seeing the two of them together laughing and being silly.  I miss watching her praising our Savior.  I miss her calling me Abel.  I miss her being bossy.  I miss her singing.  I miss EVERYTHING about her and I ALWAYS will. 
For the most part, I feel like we are doing good.  With what we experienced in the hospital room, God has truly given us the peace that surpasses all understanding.  We have that peace in KNOWING that Madison is with Jesus and that she is fully restored and for that, we are able to smile. 
How can you not be happy when you know your loved one is in Heaven?
I remember when we found out that I was pregnant, I instantly began to pray for my child to come to Jesus.  I have always felt that a parent's biggest responsibility is leading their child to Christ. 
It has been my prayer from the very beginning of this journey that the Lord be glorified through it all.  I pray that through Madison's story, people will come to know Jesus. 
I shared Madison's homecoming story on this blog and over 10,000 people have read her story. 10,000 people! I have received numerous emails and Facebook messages of people who have been touched by her story. 
I have also received numerous messages of people wanting copies of her funeral service.  Her funeral service was not a sad occasion but a celebration of a precious life.  I truly did not want it to end.
After receiving the copy of her service on DVD I watched it 4 times in one day.  Some may not understand this and that is okay, hopefully one day you will, but watching her funeral service brings me a tremendous amount of joy.  It is a joy of anticipation, longing for the day that I will be able to stand beside her, worshipping our one true God!  Oh what a day that will be!!!!!